Do you ever participate in expos to try to grow your business?
A colleague and friend of mine, Valerie DiVecchio of Divine Creations, and I sat down to write this article because we see time and time again companies make critical mistakes when exhibiting at a trade show or expo. Companies invest time and money trying to put their best foot forward, and sometimes they just fall flat. With our combined experience, we wanted to write this article to help companies succeed in making a lasting impression and making more money!
Trade shows and Expos are abundant throughout the community, and can be a powerful way for companies to market their business… when done correctly. Unfortunately, many companies that have a booth to promote their business make one or many mistakes, which keep them from reaching their full potential for success with the event. There are several considerations when deciding whether or not to participate in the trade show, and how best to work the event.
The first step is to decide whether or not you participate in the event. A question you will want answered is: “Are the people attending prospective clients of mine?” If the answer is no, then this is not the most effective use of your marketing dollars. If the answer is yes, you will want to determine your break even point, i.e., how many clients would you need from the event to cover the investment of participating? Taking that number, ask yourself if it is realistic to gain that many clients from this type of event. You may need to ask the event coordinator a few additional determining questions, such as:
- How many people are expected to attend? (and is this a number based on previous year’s attendees, ticket sales or a guess)
- What is the size of the booth and what is provided? (if you need electricity or wi-fi, is it available? And is there an additional cost?)
- Do you get to pick your booth location?
- Is there a ticket price for entrance or is it free to the public?
- What other activities will be happening during the event? (such as seminars, demonstrations, shows)
Once you have all the details, you are better informed to answer the question: “What is the best way to stand out amongst the crowd?” The first thing to consider is the layout of your booth; this can be crucial in attracting people to you, thus giving you a higher success rate of interaction with your prospective clients. Some points to consider:
- Include samples of your product or photos of your services to view
- Display your company’s name & logo predominately
- Adequately staff the booth with people in proper attire with fresh breath
- Have the supplies to properly assemble your space (ie, extension cords, scissor, tape, fishing wire, etc) to look great
- Create an inviting space to communicate with prospects. Do not have the staff hidden behind the table, sitting in chair or have people eating, smacking gum, or playing on cell phones
- Don’t overwhelm people with too much clutter
- Develop a plan to engage the audience
Now that the booth is well laid out and people are coming to see you, your next goal is to engage them. What can you utilize to hold their attention and strike up the conversation?
Games, door prizes, giveaways and discounts are just a few possibilities. Will people provide their contact information for a 10% coupon off your services? Maybe, maybe not. Will they offer it up for the chance to win a free iPad? Almost always YES! This component is crucial to the ability to follow up with the people you meet!
Depending on the event, you may also have an opportunity to reach out to the participants beforehand, whether they are in your own database or if the event coordinator can facilitate with scheduled participants. This can help you create BUZZ about your booth, before anyone even gets there, and have a bee line (ha ha, pun intended) of participants to your location. The attendees at the event are meeting a number of new companies; you may want them to walk away with something tangible, whether it’s a brochure, a promotional product or free sample. Why? This is a powerful way to have them remember you after the tradeshow is over. A good rule of thumb is to order your material well in advance to avoid rush fees and potential disaster of items not arriving on time or items being incorrect. If you run out, you might not miss the chance to put your information into the hands of your prospective clients; know that you can repurpose extra material, though.
A couple ways to help you create the buzz:
- Email a coupon to potential attendees to receive a free sample or promotional product
- Offer a special via social media
- Print from the website/blog an additional entry into the door prize or game
Planning in advance will help ensure a more successful event, meaning more business for your company!
All the prep work is done, and now it is expo day!!!
Follow these couple tips to ensure a productive and smooth running day.
· Unload: When you arrive at the event, know where and how you will be unloading and delivering material to your booth. Do you need to bring your own cart/dolly or will one be available? Are there people to assist in the unloading and set up of your booth? After unloading, where should you park and is there a fee for parking?
· Set up: Prepare in advance how you want each component of your booth to look; know where tables, signage, and props will be placed so that it can be set up by anyone, in case you run into an issue. You may want to stage a dry run of your set up, and take photos and have them available the day of to ensure easy set up. Also, find out in advance where you can store empty containers and packing material, if needed, to maintain the professionalism of your booth.
· Staff: Have ample staff scheduled and emphasize the importance of being on time (some expos will pull your booth if you are not there on time). People at the event will walk away if there is a long line or no one to speak with when they come to your booth. Do know, you NEVER want to leave the booth unattended.. In your scheduling, consider breaks and meals, as well as time for the people to walk the floor.
At some events, there may be limitation on soliciting outside the booth area, but if your event does not have those limitations, when slow, your extra staff can help engage the participants and encouraging them to visit your booth.
· Closing time: The hours posted to the public are the hours which your booth should be set up and fully staffed, ready to share your company brand. By breaking down early and leaving an empty booth, the perception of the company by the attendees could be that you are not committed to fulfilling your obligations.
The event has been completed, now what? Sit and wait for the phone to ring? NOPE!
If you do the previous work and fail to follow through, then the effort you extended and money you invested has been wasted. It is critical to have a follow up strategy after the event.
During the week after the event, you will want to reach out to the people who expressed interest in your product/service. This could be done through a phone call, letter or postcard, or an email. This first communication is CRUCIAL.
People were exposed to a number of different vendors at the Expo, and they will forget most of the people. Stand out from the crowd by being one of the first to reach out to people.
Hopefully, some of these people will want to do business with you now.
For the people that are not ready to purchase, create a strategy for following up over the next few months; your strategy could include letters/mailers, including them on your newsletter distribution list (if you received permission to do so), invite them to an upcoming event, etc. While you want to follow up, do be careful not to harass the prospects!
Doing a tradeshow the right way can take some effort; the rewards, though, are well worth the time and energy invested. Use the tradeshow to create the first impression, follow up with the prospect to develop the relationship, and your business can thrive!